Alarm setting for the critically ill patient : A descriptive pilot survey of nurses’ perceptions of current practice in an Australian Regional Critical Care Unit

Christensen, Martin, Dodds, Andrew, Sauer, Josh, & Watts, Nigel (2014) Alarm setting for the critically ill patient : A descriptive pilot survey of nurses’ perceptions of current practice in an Australian Regional Critical Care Unit. Intensive and Critical Care Nursing, 30(4), pp. 204-210.

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The aim of this survey was to assess registered nurse’s perceptions of alarm setting and management in an Australian Regional Critical Care Unit.


The setting and management of alarms within the critical care environment is one of the key responsibilities of the nurse in this area. However, with up to 99% of alarms potentially being false-positives it is easy for the nurse to become desensitised or fatigued by incessant alarms; in some cases up to 400 per patient per day. Inadvertently ignoring, silencing or disabling alarms can have deleterious implications for the patient and nurse.


A total population sample of 48 nursing staff from a 13 bedded ICU/HDU/CCU within regional Australia were asked to participate. A 10 item open-ended and multiple choice questionnaire was distributed to determine their perceptions and attitudes of alarm setting and management within this clinical area.


Two key themes were identified from the open-ended questions: attitudes towards inappropriate alarm settings and annoyance at delayed responses to alarms. A significant number of respondents (93%) agreed that alarm fatigue can result in alarm desensitisation and the disabling of alarms, whilst 81% suggested the key factors are those associated with false-positive alarms and inappropriately set alarms.

Impact and interest:

6 citations in Scopus
6 citations in Web of Science®
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ID Code: 79470
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: alarm fatigue, nuisance alarms, alarm desensitisation, false alarms
DOI: 10.1016/j.iccn.2014.02.003
ISSN: 1532-4036
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > NURSING (111000) > Clinical Nursing - Secondary (Acute Care) (111003)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
Deposited On: 15 Dec 2014 04:03
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2017 13:01

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